Skipping sports and solemn rites: Popular and high culture in the early Stuart court masque

Smialkowska, Monika (2001) Skipping sports and solemn rites: Popular and high culture in the early Stuart court masque. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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This thesis is concerned with the early modem court masques (chiefly those produced during the reigns of James VI of Scotland and I of England and Charles I). The main purpose of this study is to account for the masque's composite form by exploring tensions between high and low culture in the genre. Although the masque was the preserve of the political and educational elite of the time, next to high cultural elements, it contained influences from the popular culture of the period ( comic lower-class characters, folk customs, and forms associated with popular theatre of the Shakespearean type). This thesis explores the socio-historical and ideological processes which yoke these disparate factors together in the genre. To achieve this goal, this thesis first examines the criteria for the hierarchical stratification of genres and discourses, as articulated in Renaissance critical theory. Subsequently, the application of those criteria in several discourses recurring in the masque (chivalry, neo-classicism, and the representations of contemporary country, city, and court) is examined. The findings of this thesis suggest that the Renaissance generic hierarchy, as applied in the masque, is fluid and contingent. Moreover, elite and popular culture in the masque are not absolutely distinct, but rather constructed in relation to each other in continual processes of appropriation and mutual definition. Popular culture, although overtly despised, emerges as necessary for the elite's construction of its own cultural identity. The genre's internal fissures and ambiguities stem, to a large extent, from its participation in these relational operations of culture. Consequently, this thesis re-evaluates the place that the masque is usually accorded in modem criticism. The genre cannot be classified unequivocally as a successful propaganda tool for the elite, as the masque's structure exposes the fractured and contradictory nature of dominant ideology. Simultaneously, this thesis contributes to the ongoing debates concerning popular and high culture, as it brings to the fore the artificiality and ideologically loaded arbitrariness of the distinction between the two.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Additional Information: A print copy of this thesis is available for reference use.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Early Modern Court Masques; popular theatre during the reigns of James VI (Scotland) and Charles I (England); high culture; low culture; critical theory
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Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creatives
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2022 11:27
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:57

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